The Cult of Pedagogy Podcast, Episode 203

Jennifer Gonzalez, Host

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GONZALEZ: About a year and a half ago, in episode 178, I did an interview with two educators, Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan, about their new book, Street Data. The book is about the approach they had developed for helping schools transform. As soon as I read the book, I knew it was something I wanted all schools to hear about, because for the first time, I felt like I had stumbled on something that could actually solve some of the biggest problems we have with really meeting our students’ needs equitably and authentically. 

What I absolutely love about the Street Data approach is that it’s kind of messy. It offers no quick fixes. Unlike so many other solutions that we propose for fixing the big, deep, complex problems that plague our education system, Street Data is completely different, because at its core, it relies on sitting down with the students and other stakeholders at the margins, those who typically never get a voice, and simply listening to them to learn what they need in order to be more successful at school. And “successful” means something different in the Street Data lexicon: Instead of focusing on test scores, grades, and other metrics that we typically use to measure success, their criteria for success are much more holistic, with student well-being as the ultimate goal. And I don’t know if there has ever been another time in history when it’s been more apparent that our students are not well. 

I was so blown away by the Street Data approach that after we finished our interview in October of 2021, I proposed that we take it further: As much as I felt that their book could really reach educators and change so many schools in ways that they really needed to be changed, I worried that the book on its own may not be enough, that teachers who really wanted to do this work needed more support. While Jamila and Shane do work directly with schools through this process, they are only two people and can only reach so many schools by being physically with them. So I proposed that we find a few schools who would be willing to have their Street Data cycle videotaped, then share their process with the world.

And that’s exactly what we did. Teachers from two schools — one in British Columbia in Canada, and another in San Francisco, California — met eight times over Zoom, going step-by-step through the Equity Transformation Cycle outlined in Street Data. 

The result of that work is a nine-video series that we are releasing on YouTube today. The first six videos are available right now, and the remaining three will be released over the next few weeks. The fastest way to find the playlist is through the URL

My hope in producing this series is that groups of educators will use it in conjunction with the book to work through the equity transformation cycle at your own school. 

In today’s episode, I’ll talk with Shane and Jamila about the project, what they both learned from it, and what advice they have for educators who want to embark on this process themselves. We also talk with Amanda Liebel and Araceli Leon, two of the participating teachers, about how the work has changed their practice and how it has had a ripple effect on the culture of their schools. 

So the first part of this conversation will just be with Jamila and Shane, and then we’ll hear from Amanda and Araceli, and then we’ll wrap things up with Jamila and Shane again.

Here we go.

GONZALEZ: Shane and Jamila, the last time you were on this podcast was October of 2021. That was Episode 178, for people listening, and that was when we talked in depth about your book Street Data. And I was a huge fan, and I realized that the podcast episode that we did was not going to be enough because I wanted teachers to be able to learn this process. So since then, we decided to take last year, basically, to document you working through the process with two schools who volunteered to have their work recorded and shared in a miniseries that we are now releasing on YouTube. So just to help my listeners get an idea who the people are at these schools that we worked with, can you just give us a brief description of each of the two schools and why you chose them for this series because you had applicants actually apply to be in this series. 

SAFIR: Well, Jennifer, thank you for having us back for this conversation. Just reflecting back, first I want to say that, you know, 63,000 people have engaged with Street Data since it came out less than two years ago, which is an incredible and unanticipated reach. And there have been dozens if not hundreds of school districts and organizations grappling with how to do this work, and thousands of teachers. And so to get to spend time with two teams of teachers, right on the ground, right, with folks as they walk this path was such a beautiful learning experience, I think, for both of us and hopefully for them as well. We put out an RFP — if I remember correctly, Jamila — on Twitter. We were just like, here’s a short application. We want to work with a couple of teams, and we got back a fair amount of interest. And then as we looked through those applications, two teams really rose up as just seeming ready to do this work with us. I’ll talk about the one from British Columbia and then invite Dr. J to talk about the one from San Francisco. So the team from BC is from a school, a middle school, called Constable Neil Bruce, which is a story in and of itself, the colonial military legacy in the title. And it’s the largest middle school in the division, in a district called Central Okanagan. Middle school, it’s big. It’s 950 students. About 35 percent of those students are Indigenous, and the school is very split in terms of socioeconomics, so low income, middle income, and high-income families, a lot of kids with free and reduced lunch, etc. Very diverse learning profiles. They came to us in the application with the following problem of practice. They said, our Indigenous students struggle incredibly at this school. We are the first off-reservation school many of our students attend. Intergenerational trauma, drug use, and truancy are real factors for some of these students, and our Indigenous advocates work extremely hard to keep families and students engaged at school. Sort of a summary. And I think they were really trying to understand what their role was as leaders and teachers in creating a safe and welcoming space of belonging for Indigenous students to be able to learn and grow. So we were compelled by the demographics of the school, the fact that it was a Canadian school, and then the depth of the problem of practice. 

GONZALEZ: And then we have Buena Vista Horace Mann.

DUGAN: So yeah, I’m going to talk about the school we had in San Francisco. Great group of folks at Buena Vista Horace Mann, and this is a K-8 Spanish immersion community school, and it’s in the heart of the Mission District in SF. Most of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, and it’s pretty racially diverse. Most of the students being Latinx, but there’s representation from African American students, Asian students, all different kinds of students and with a lot of diverse learning profiles that Shane mentioned for the other school. And really the problem of practice they were coming with is something that we’ve seen so many times. The satellite data says that Latinx students, the majority of their kids, and African American students are not performing on standardized measures. And in California, that is Smarter Balanced Assessments. And with distance learning, so many kids came back, you know, trying to figure out how to make this transition back into schools, and they were really trying to figure that out with kids eloping, coming out of class, and just really trying to figure out this engagement piece. So they were trying to move from this focus on this satellite data to what it really means to support the kids at the margins with a focus on engagement. How do they really do that as opposed to what they had been doing before, which is kind of like, here’s the intervention we should do or the strategy we should use based on what was kind of dictated to them. 

GONZALEZ: By like curriculum experts or interventionists or whatever who focused on the academic piece, yeah. 

DUGAN: Yeah. 

GONZALEZ: And part of the reason why I wanted you both to describe the features of these schools is because I want people listening to see pieces of their own school in this and go, oh yeah, we have that problem, we have that problem, we’re serving that population and understand that these, we thought about making sure that we wanted to represent schools that had similar problems that a lot of schools are facing. Okay, now we’re going to hear from Amanda Liebel who is one of our participating teachers from Canada. So, Amanda, you were a participant from the Constable Neil Bruce school in British Columbia. So I just wanted to talk to you for a couple minutes about what the experience was like, basically. So I guess the first question is sort of just about the Street Data process in general now that you’ve actually gone through a cycle of it. What would you say makes this process different from any other approach you’ve taken in the past to improve the work that you do in the classroom? 

LIEBEL: I think that this process really gives us some attainable goals, and it is a journey. It is something that needs to be done, if you can, collaboratively with a group along the way. I think our school found some major success working alongside some teachers with a common vision and some administrators with a common vision to achieve some equitable learning and some belonging for our marginalized students in the space. And we’ve read so many books before about what’s going on with kids or how we can see kids or how we can improve the learning of our kids. But I feel like Street Data really allowed us to sit in the uncomfortable conversations and allowed us to stretch ourselves to change our practice and our system a little bit more. 

GONZALEZ: So I guess the big $50 million question is how did, you know, we started this process about a year ago. How is your work different? How have things changed for you personally? And then I’m going to ask you about what you’ve noticed about the school. So how has it impacted you personally as a teacher? 

LIEBEL: I think that personally as a teacher I’m always trying to stretch myself in my own learning. I think that a lot of teachers desire that in this profession. But I think it really allowed me to elbow into being innovative with my lessons and structure that so that the students that need it the most, the voice or the belonging, are at the center, at the front of that, and are guiding some of those innovative and creative ways we see our space. 

GONZALEZ: So is there something that you’re actually doing now in your classroom that you weren’t doing a year ago because of the cycle that you went through? 

LIEBEL: Yeah, there are numerous things. I think that since students, they hold me accountable to some of their learning. They give me ideas for how they would like to see, well, first of all, I teach drama. So in my space, usually I’m leading games and giving them scripture to follow along. But some of our Indigenous students are leading through storytelling now, and we’ve had an elder come in and share some stories. And so it’s really allowed me to reimagine who is leading those activities and what that could look like in the room. 

GONZALEZ: And have you seen positive changes in some of those students at the margins sort of compared to, you may not have had the same kids as last year, but have you noticed maybe some differences in the way that students are responding in the building? 

LIEBEL: Yeah. I actually just had a follow-up conversation with one of the students yesterday who’s in our cogen group. And I just said, you know, I do have this follow-up meeting with the authors coming, and I’m just interested to hear your voice and what your feeling this year’s been, how it’s been going for you, right. And they said that there’s a sincere try in our teachers, and that’s all that I’ve ever wanted is that you are trying to include us, you are trying to hear our voice, you’re trying to bring in an elder. You are, yeah. So the word “try” really stood out to me. 

GONZALEZ: Oh my gosh. Yeah. That’s amazing. I mean that’s, and the message I feel like I’m hearing there is you don’t have to get it perfectly right. Like, we just want to see that genuine effort and that you care about us and see us and want to know what’s going to make a difference. So I guess that sort of segues into sort of the larger school. We worked with five or six other teachers from your school on this project. And I say teachers loosely because there were administrators and some support staff and so on. But what impression do you have of the impact it had on CNB as a whole? 

LIEBEL: I mean humbly I feel like our school is leading the district in equitable learning for our students. And I feel really great pride to say that it is not only happening in our classrooms but it’s also happening in, like, in our scheduling, and it’s happening in our behavior room, and it’s happening with the administrators. And it’s just, like, so many layers to how it’s happening, and I know that that is a vision or a goal of what Street Data was meant to do, but to actually see it happening is such a beautiful thing for a teacher. And I just, yeah, we see focused student support. We have some carved-in time in the schedule so that we can pull students out and have empathy interviews or some one-on-one conversations. It doesn’t even need to be a structured empathy interview. We are welcome to take that student and go play a board game with them and just have a moment to connect with some of our students that don’t have that sense of belonging at our school. 

GONZALEZ: You’ve taken a lot of the pieces of the process and sort of blended them and woven them into your practices, like more informally even. 

LIEBEL: Exactly. 

GONZALEZ: Just sort of part of the infrastructure of the school. Did you notice interest from others who were not signed on to the focus work that you all did for the year? 

LIEBEL: Some of that is happening organically, and some of it is happening with purpose, like having book club meetings after school still and mentorship meetings. And then of course our work that we’re doing with another neighboring middle school as well. So some of it is happening on purpose, but my student just said to me, you know, it’s really neat because I’m doing a display case where I get to talk about Orange Shirt Day, and I wrote a paragraph to go along with Orange Shirt Day, and my English teacher counted that as my writing mark. That’s never happened for me before. 

SAFIR: Does everybody know what Orange Shirt Day is in the States? 


SAFIR: Might need to illuminate that. 

GONZALEZ: What is Orange Shirt Day?

LIEBEL: Orange Shirt Day is recognition for Truth and Reconciliation with our Indigenous people and moving forward to a deeper understanding of some of the hurt, trauma from the past and how we can reconcile that for our future. 

SAFIR: I think “every child matters” is like the mantra connected to that, right. And I’ll just comment, like, as a guest and visitor living in BC this year, when Orange Shirt Day happened a few months ago, I was so moved walking around Victoria and seeing just like dozens and dozens of people wearing the shirt, the orange shirt that said, “every child matters.” And it was like in the coffeeshop, in the grocery store, Indigenous people, European descent settler people. Like it’s, it felt very unifying and very, like, visually moving. 

GONZALEZ: How will Street Data continue to influence the way you approach your work as an educator? 

LIEBEL: It’s hard to undo the work that you’ve done, I think, once you are shaped into deep listening and putting students’ voice at the forefront of your classroom. It’s hard to undo that. So I think it will forever be a part of my practice and my pedagogy to continue innovative ways, because it will be different for every student. It will be different for every classroom that I have walk through that room. But it will continue my journey of how I can best, yeah, approach those students and give them, yeah, the safety that they need in this kind of brick-and-mortar building that they walk into that may not be so comfortable for a lot of them. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. So Shane and Jamila, I want to open up the floor to you. If you all have other questions for Amanda that have come up. 

DUGAN: I mean it’s hard for me to pull up questions because I just have so much gratitude for Amanda and her colleagues and the other teams, the other school that went through this with us because when you see the miniseries, the way that they showed up with the level of vulnerability and trust and the process and consistent digging in and the highs of, you know, oh my gosh, we found this out, and oh my gosh, this is really hard to, you know, hear and find out. We couldn’t have asked for, for more. And so to hear the transformation that’s happened for you to have actually gotten to interact with student voices ourselves, right, and what that took for you all to make that happen in the midst of craziness, I just am so grateful. So my only, more of a request, like, keep at it. Keep, keep doing what you’ve started is amazing and I mean if you had an hour, you probably could just, I mean there’s so many pedagogical shifts that you made in your, I mean so many. And I just want you to keep it up and keep sharing your learning. I’m beyond grateful to you and all of the folks that participated. So thank you. 

LIEBEL: And thank you for giving us the language. I think that what stuck with me the most throughout the process was the abundance mindset over the deficit, and it just is my mantra of what is always there, and the something that’s better than nothing, kind of. And I’m happy to point it out to fellow staff-mates when they say, what is this process? And, you know, we’re looking for the quick fixes of what, why isn’t it better already? And then if we satellite out and we pick out the things that are going well, and we start to highlight there was an abundance mindset, the things that have come so far already, you know. It is, yeah. It’s really great. So thank you for giving us the language to use here. 

GONZALEZ: Having edited so many of the videos a lot, aggressively in the last, like, two weeks, I’m seeing a lot of the middle, right now. And you two definitely did so much coaching of that mindset stuff. I mean, Jamila, the number of times that you said, like, simplify, guys. Keep it simple. Make it a small goal. Make it attainable. This doesn’t have to be perfect. Just get in there and, like, there was so much of that. I mean you’ll realize it because some of these videos haven’t even gotten finished yet, but like what Amanda’s saying is, I just want to, like, echo that. 

SAFIR: When you were talking about abundance mindset, Amanda, I was picturing the photo that you shared in the last one with the, one of the young women throwing her head back in laughter and the other ones leaning in and all the joy in that picture. And then Elisé sharing the, this data that we don’t often talk about of, like, witnessing the same students walking down the hall the previous year with, like, headphones on, hair forward, kind of, you know, enclosed in the sense of self protection and her as an administrator seeing them open up and just transform, really, in your, in your care, in the work you’re doing. I’m curious what it’s been like to lead and mentor other teachers in the system around the work. 

LIEBEL: I think that that’s a whole, yeah. It’s really enjoyable to lead other colleagues through the work. It has its challenges because I can see the work because I’ve been in the process. And so I really just, I want them to have the trust and the faith that this is leading us towards, I mean, honestly, any work that you’re sitting down with students is good work. But that it is really great work that we’re doing, and that if they lean in a little bit, they will see a lot. So it has its stretches at times because as professionals, we are perfectionists in some of this work that we do. And there’s a sense of control and there’s a sense of I can’t, right, or there’s no time. And so it’s really also guiding some of our colleagues out of that mindset, and like I guess I’ll echo the words of my students to try. 

GONZALEZ: And now here is my brief interview with Araceli Leon, who is one of our teachers from Buena Vista Horace Mann in San Francisco. You are a teacher at Buena Vista Horace Mann, correct? 

LEON: Yeah. 

GONZALEZ: And what is it that you teach? 

LEON: I teach kindergarten Spanish immersion. 

GONZALEZ: Perfect. And so we’ve completed this year of working with Shane and Jamila on Street Data. And so my first question is, in your opinion, what makes that process different from other approaches that you’ve taken in the past to improve your work? 

LEON: I think it’s very interesting. So some background about myself. I’m in my seventh year teaching kindergarten. I’m a San Francisco native. I was born and raised here, and I actually went to my, the school I teach at for elementary school. So I, full circle for me coming back to teach at my elementary school. And one of the things that I feel like we were all very reflective of in joining this process was we are working in a very different time. Coming back from the pandemic, there were so many things that, you know, we needed support within being able to engage our families, engage our students and how are we authentic in the way that we approach the work we do knowing that everything looks so different now. 

GONZALEZ: How did this project impact your work as an educator? How are you, how are you different now as a teacher after this year? 

LEON: You know, it’s, one of the main takeaways for myself is I was able to, I really appreciated when we did our student interviews. It’s something that I had done previously but again, when we, with a year, year and a half of distance learning with everything, it was kind of hard to get started and re-establishing those same things that we had done previously in schools. And it was so refreshing to get to talk to my kiddos and ask them, like, what, who makes them feel safe at school? What makes them feel happy to be at school? Who’s someone they trust in our school? Which are all so critical for our little ones. And just getting that opportunity to stop and reflect on what they are saying and how that guides our practice is, it was really powerful. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. Have you seen it impact the school as a whole? There were about seven or eight of you working from, from BVHM. Have you, have you seen it impact all of you and sort of spread beyond that? 

LEON: I think it has. I know that our team really valued this experience, and we’re able to bring a lot of things, not only into our own classrooms but to share with our colleagues. I think it’s, I think it’s tricky to find time, but that time is critical to make. And I think now, you know, before I’ve done student interviews for different things, different topics, different subjects, but really developing that sense of belonging of students hadn’t been my intention or objective prior to this project. Whereas now, I got to engage in the interviews in the spring of last year. Whereas now, I make sure to check in with them at the beginning of the year and interview them, so how you’re feeling, and then now at the end, I’ll have a more of a reflective conversation. Like, what are things that shift or have shifted for the kiddos after a year of being at our school? 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. So how do you think this project is going to continue to influence the way you work? 

LEON: I mean I think it’s going to become, I mean, interviewing students is going to be something that I definitely embed into my practice more frequently. 


LEON: And I think I’ve seen that for my colleagues as well. It is just so powerful to just hear their voices. And I work with 5-year-olds, so really getting them to express themselves and just to hear how happy they are in school is such a motivator. And especially in such a hard time to be a student, to be a teacher. It’s really refreshing to get those reminders of our whys, and they are our whys. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. If you had any sort of advice for teachers who were just getting started on this, you know, what would you say to them? 

LEON: Right now, we have to, as educators, we have to really focus in on the heart work of it all and our kids and really getting to them from where they’re starting and really connecting with them as the little people that they are. And getting that opportunity to take a step back from the academics and really just getting to invest in what they bring to the table already and getting to know from them has been so powerful in like reaffirming why I do what I do. So really sometimes I think we get really hyper-focused on all the things we have to do, and of course everything is important in the balancing game of education. But having those moments to take a step back and getting to reflect and just hear from them what brings them joy is, incites a lot of joy for myself and it brought a lot of joy for my colleagues as well. 

GONZALEZ: Okay, and now we’re going to return to the conversation with Shane and Jamila. So we’ve been through, and I want to sort of keep emphasizing that this work is never actually done. So we’re not really done. We’re not done with these schools. Like, they’re not finished and fixed, but they’ve completed one equity transformation cycle, and the cycle is a circle. So it just keeps going. But now that you have worked through this, you know, over the past year with these two schools, how do you feel it went with these two schools? 

DUGAN: So I think it was really eye-opening and affirming. First of all, there’s just so many deficit narratives about schools and teachers and students, right. Like, even when folks come to us, it’s like we have this issue, we have this problem. But we’re missing an opportunity to identify what we, what we have missed, the abundance, the assets that we have missed. And so it felt really affirming to be reminded that teachers are busting their behinds to make sure that their kids get what they need. They are trying really hard, and students have big dreams. We knew this, but as the teachers who are a part of this process, they got to be invited into the stories that might be, you know, challenging for students but also what students want. There’s so much richness that we could be, could be getting, could be using to work with our students. So it’s just affirming to be reminded of the dreams of students and teachers. And also, it was affirming and reminded me how much time and space is needed to dig in for transformation. We keep trying to force it in, like give you forty minutes to prepare your entire, you know, day or week of lessons. And with that limited time and such big asks, it’s stressful, it’s painful, and it causes a lot of harm for students and teachers. And so what we really did in this process that makes me think about how it went is we gave time and space to reflect deeply. And when you do that, at least what I believe we all observed, was that change becomes visceral, it becomes authentic. It becomes meaningful. And it becomes really specific, both to individuals and their whole beings and in the classroom practice. So it was really affirming for some of the things that I think we’ve known but don’t always pay attention to, but we really got to see what happens when you do give time and space and think through an abundance lens. 

SAFIR: Yeah, I love all of that. And I think for me it was, it was a surprisingly moving process and personally transformative. I didn’t expect it to be so emotional to walk alongside these teachers and to witness their growth and their, their kind of emerging and growing self-awareness. One of the things that really struck me, I don’t remember which data point this was, whether it was like a survey or the interviews we did midway through, but this ability to talk about the internalization of white supremacy culture and these tenets of urgency and perfectionism and these, and these really — to use Jamila’s word — like embody these patterns that people were starting to notice and see how those were barriers to serving students equitably and inclusively. And just, like, people’s fluency and, and capacity to name those dynamics was surprising to me. And I think just, it was a gift to be learning alongside them. Like, we were, frankly, building the plane as we flew it. Like, okay, what are we going to do with the slides today? How do we scaffold this? You know, now we have all this material from collaborating with you and the teachers. 

GONZALEZ: I loved that. There were certain places in the videos where you were like, we just made this and no one else has seen it, but we’re going to try it with you guys. And I thought, this is amazing. This is so great. 

SAFIR: It was like the raw material and so I feel so lucky that we got this real-time feedback from committed practitioners on the ground around what they needed to be able to move through the process. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. So, okay. So the next question is, and I, and I’d like you to both answer this one. Just reflecting back on the whole process with both schools, what for you was a major breakthrough that happened during this time with these schools? 

SAFIR: So for me, and I was just watching this hourlong video last night, but it was the, it was the uncover protocol. So on pages 180-81 in the book, there’s this Street Data analysis protocol that, you know, that I wrote for this chapter. And I think it, Jamila, you had just used to before we used it with Cult of Pedagogy with the kindergarten teachers. And so you were already sharing, like, wow, this is really impactful and especially this feeling piece. And then we split into the two rooms and with the, with the BC team, they were looking at some video empathy interviews with some of their Indigenous students, one of whom was in just a lot of pain. And just the level of emotion that came out of that conversation, the like stop you in your tracks, like we can’t keep doing things the same way, and this particular reflection that’s captured there from one teacher who’s in tears who says, I think what I have to offer this student is patience. Patience, as she’s evolving and growing. And it really caught, like my heart caught in my throat at the time as a parent of a struggling kid, right, thinking about, like, you do all the things but sometimes some people are just on their own journey, and it just takes time. So I just thought that was an incredibly powerful moment. It reminded me of the First Peoples Principles of Learning, one of the principles is learning involves patience and time. And I think giving the teachers permission to actually reflect on that, that there is no quick fix, right, as Jamila mentioned earlier. And, and that’s not how we’re going to dismantle those systems of oppression as like the technical solution, right. Some of it is just staying in relationship and showing up for young people who are in pain time and again and helping them find their own brilliance, right. So that was really touching, to me. How about for you, Jamila? 

DUGAN: Yeah. I think building on, on that, I think this, this, this whole experience is, is comprehensive, right. It’s like a whole body, mind practice, transformation. And so you kind of got to go through what you’re seeing from students and what you’re feeling, and all of that is really important. And the breakthrough that I noticed was like, oh wait. Change is possible, right? Like, we don’t have to, it’s not about, like, let’s focus on the challenge and really stay there. It’s about what’s, what else can we do now that we have a greater understanding of a student’s experience. And one of the teachers at Buena Vista Horace Mann at the end when he’s sharing the math games that his students started to do, as a result of this process, he was like —

SAFIR: That was cool. 

DUGAN: I mean, the sentiment was very much like, I could see it in him. It was like, wow, you know. I really did this. I made this happen, you know. Where I think in the beginning, it was kind of like, I have all these things I want to do for kids. There are so many things pulling on me. We did some reflecting on white supremacy culture, as Shane had mentioned. You know, you kind of, like, your head kind of starts to feel like it’s going to explode. But by the end, the work that he did with his kids in the math classroom was amazing. For every single teacher there was something that they tangibly changed that related to their practice and their pedagogy in the classroom. And so I think sometimes it’s so big, you said this earlier, Jennifer, around people making it so big and we’re like, simplify. Figure out the thing you can do, and I think, through that time and space and really getting to process what they were going through and experiencing, they were led naturally to break through. I don’t think we could have dictated any of the changes that they came up with. So I think seeing that this worked, this transformation at a practice-based level and as a human being it’s possible was, was a breakthrough that I felt was pretty incredible. 

SAFIR: Just like listening to you talk reminds me of the butterfly effect, right, and how this, the butterfly flapping its wings can change the climate in another hemisphere. Like, that’s what it feels like. It’s like these small changes, but then listening to Amanda today, you can see how it amplifies, right. It’s like this exponential increase. 


SAFIR: You get really local about a specific practice, and then suddenly you feel permission, suddenly you’re influencing people around you, and suddenly other schools are like, what are you doing? How do I do that? And suddenly it’s growing and it’s growing. And that’s, I think that’s like the theory in this, but to see it play out was really beautiful. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. Well, you know, because Jamila was talking about how much time it takes at the beginning to really get people to sink in and do the reflection. But once you’ve done that, man, just talking about how this is just kind of an organic part of their day now. But it takes a while to actually get them to that point. And I think some of it, you’re talking about teachers busting their butts all the time because every year, year after year we’re hitting our heads against these brick walls, trying this, trying that. Nothing’s working because the approach is wrong. But then once the approach is different and the kids tell you what they need and you try that one tiny thing, and it’s like, whoa. You were right about what you needed. What else can you tell me? 

DUGAN: So true. And it sounds so, doesn’t it sound so, like, kind of crazy that really if we just slow down and be with, so many beautiful things can, can happen. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. So let’s sort of shift our focus to this, the point of us making this video series was to equip teachers out there, because there’s only two of you. And as much as I am trying to get you to, like, replicate yourselves somehow through some online courses or whatever, which I still hope you’re going to do. This is what we could do. Like, let me at least film the work you’re doing so that we can get it out there. Because you all do not have infinite amounts of time and energy to work individually with schools. 

DUGAN: Discovering that this month again. 

GONZALEZ: So this, we were hoping that this series would help schools who can, they’re going to get your book, and they’re, and maybe they thought, we’ll just do this on our own. And we’re thinking like they watch two other schools go through this, they can maybe follow the process. So if a school is doing that, you know, what should they pay attention to in this video? And, you know, what advice do you have? I’ll combine the last two questions. Sort of like, what would your advice be to approach this with the book and the series? 

DUGAN: So the first thing I’m going to say is if you put expectations on for what the experience will be, then it’s probably going to, it’s probably not going to be that. I really would say it’s really not a technical process. And so if I am going to give you something that you should pay attention to, it’s the embodied experience of the educators. And what I mean by this is how they feel, what they’re thinking, what they’re saying. The subtle and nuanced transformation that’s happening for them, had almost these like Street Data ethnographers and then kind of seeing what their experience is and then kind of applying that to your own or kind of how you see us structuring the time and applying it, applying that to your own context. There are so many ah-ha moments they had that are pedagogical. You will see that. They are also deeply personal, and so it can be really easy to go to the series with a technical lens and go like, what are they trying to do? What strategies come out of the cycle, right? Like, because that’s what we’re oriented toward. That’s like super, super, what we’re used to, right. What strategies come out of this? But it’s really much more about their ultimate passions and ultimate dreams for education and how listening and sitting with really feel, what that really feels like, sitting with the felt data. And what moves you can make when you are slowing down and focusing on your whole body of experience. Then ultimately, I think, if you tune into that and kind of see it as, like, what was this school experiencing? What were these educators experiencing? And how do we use this as an opportunity to create learning experiences for us with the equity transformation cycle? I think it’s going to be much more authentic and feel much more powerful. In terms of folks who are going to go through the video series and thinking about how they should go about it and advice I might have, fidelity and consistency. What was amazing for this group of teachers, they showed up even when it was hard. They had so many things going on in their schools. I mean, a lot of different things. Big ups, big, big downs though. But they were committed to seeing the process through. Moving through the equity transformation cycle is really about the process of transformation. So I would really encourage folks to be ready, for being in the process, and, and seeing what it’s like when you change the way that you’re being, not so much when you change what you’re doing. You will change. You will make changes, but it’s more about what it’s like to be with folks as opposed to, like, just what can I fix? So I think fidelity and consistency, and even when it’s hard, don’t, don’t cancel the meeting. And if you do cancel the meeting, reschedule it, but, but have fidelity to the process. Because if you get to, like, uncover, right, you listen and you uncover and then you stop, it’ll be beneficial, right. But we want you to actually reimagine. We actually want you to go back and listen if you need to do that, and that way you can do it over and over again. So I would really encourage — or actually slightly demand — that people do that. 

GONZALEZ: This is just reminding me so much of moments in the video where you’re like, we suggest no. I am going to ask that you do this not suggest. 

SAFIR: That’s so Jamila. I love it. 

GONZALEZ: Okay, Shane. What, what advice do you have? What should people be doing with these videos? 

SAFIR: So I would invite people watching these videos to pay attention to something Jamila mentioned, the tenacity of these learners, the refusal to back away from the learning even when it gets hard, and then the vulnerability that they show throughout the process. The willingness to open their hearts and be with people in their buildings, right, staff and largely students, to be with. I think connected to that, something that is really important to notice is what it looks like for teachers to sit in uncertainty and not knowing in order to get to a place of deeper knowing. So a lot of times, right, to this point Jamila made around strategies. Like, our PD is organized around a discrete skill, a thing you’re going to do, or a lesson plan or this or that. And so much of this learning was about just being in uncertainty and discomfort. Like, I don’t know what to do next. I don’t know what this means, and you’ll see that a lot as you watch. So I would say just notice that. Notice your own discomfort as you watch that. If you’re feeling like, what’s the next thing they’re going to do? Like, make that a self-study rather than projecting it onto the team. And the last thing I invite folks to notice is what’s the role of admin in the groups? So what does it look like for administrators to be de-centering themselves as experts, and also learning alongside. I think there was a humility that I noticed in a lot of the administrators. And also, like Jamila said, they still showed up. It wasn’t like, well, this is something the teachers are going to do, so we’ll be like handling the real business of school while they learn. Like, they showed up, and they witnessed, and they participated. But they weren’t trying to be the experts in the room. So that feels like something really worth noticing. 


DUGAN: Yeah, that’s great. 

SAFIR: The only other thing I would say about the approach is just time. We always say that this is not a curriculum. This is not a pacing guide. This is not, you know, even like a roadmap. This is like a, hopefully, a transformative framework for change that builds on so many legacies of knowledge and wisdom and cultural wealth. And so this could be easily an entire year’s worth of professional learning if you slowed down and do it, as Jamila said, with fidelity, right. 


SAFIR: It’s not like, we’re going to do one workshop or five minutes. Like really, if you want to take up this work, create the time and space for people to wrestle with what they need to wrestle with. 

GONZALEZ: Would it be safe to say that if people are starting this process and they’re wondering if they’re doing it right, that probably means they’re doing it right? If they’re like, I’m not sure, like. Because that does seem to be part of the beginning stages. 

DUGAN: Yeah. Release yourself from that, you know. And that’s easier said than done, but you’re going to be asking a whole bunch of questions about, you know, am I right for this work? Wait, am I, am I doing this? What should I make this? What should I not? There’s going to be so much uncertainty, as Shane mentioned. And we just get to sit with that, and it’s, it’s such a different way to be. But I would say, yes if you’re, you know, if you’re asking if you’re doing it right, sure, but then say, you know, I’m going to put that question to the side for now and just engage in the process and see what happens for me, you know. You really get to see what happens for yourself. And I, I know this is not in there, Jennifer, but I’ve been so curious. You know, you got to witness, you didn’t know what we were planning to do many of the times there, right. You are so much of a participant trying to help us bring this together. And I’m so curious what it was like for you with that question, right, of like, I know the process at a high level, what they’re going to go through. 


DUGAN: But you’re witnessing it happen. Did you feel that, you know, sense of what’s going to happen? You know, how did it feel for you, I guess is the simplest way. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. Well, you know, it’s funny because I actually, like, jumped in. I think it was the first meeting, and you guys are talking about epistemology maps and stuff. And my head was swimming, and I was just like, and I felt like this went over like a ton of bricks, but I was just like, I just want to let everybody know that if you’re feeling confused, I’m a little confused too. I didn’t put that in the video, but I was just like, I don’t want them, I didn’t want them to give up. I wanted them to stick with it, but I was just like, this is overwhelming right now, some of this terminology. And, and after that, and especially once they started talking to the kids, then it was just like, oh, this is like. And, I mean the difference between, that’s, what I try to do on my website all the time is like, here are 10 strategies you can use for notetaking and blah, blah, blah. And so it’s the opposite of that, but it’s the other piece of what I’ve always tried to do on Cult of Pedagogy, which is that the presence of the adults in the building and their emotions and their responses to things is so influential in terms of what happens. And we hardly ever get into that. And it’s not only our own emotions and our own baggage, but it’s the way that we respond to how the kids present to us. And I’ve always known that, and I felt that when I was a teacher. I think it’s one of the reasons I was a good teacher, and one of the reasons I was frustrated with my colleagues because they didn’t want to see the kids. But there’s never been anything beyond platitudes to help us make that shift. And so when I found Street Data, that’s why I fell in love with it. But that’s why I also thought, there’s no, people aren’t going to be able to do this completely on their own. They need a visual model because it’s too deep and it’s too slow. Otherwise they need to see how slow it is, and it is going to work at the end. So I loved it. I loved the, it’s what you all said before, the honesty that these teachers brought to the table. And I don’t know, I’m hoping that they can be role models for all teachers, because I do think that there are a lot of teachers out there who started their work in education with all the right intentions and hopes and even pedagogical skills, and just got crushed under the disappointment of it not working, and they still don’t know why it didn’t work. And so some of them have gone to bitterness and just blaming these kids, these parents, kids today, blah, blah, blah. You know what I mean? And it’s just like, these are all just unique human beings who have the same feelings and emotions that you do. We just have to figure out how to get to know each other and make it work for all of us. And it’s been that missing piece, I think, for, forever. So that’s why I just want to get people to do this. 

DUGAN: Jennifer, I would just say, like, yeah, and then the strategies work, right? Like, we can, we need the 10 strategies, right? 


DUGAN: I would just say, like, when I look at your videos on the website, they are very useful, but it’s how we show up with them, right. 

GONZALEZ: Well, yeah. 

DUGAN: As opposed to just pulling that. So I just want to affirm those strategies are really great. 

GONZALEZ: Thank you. Like there was one line, because I’ve been doing the captioning, so I’ve been looking at the language everybody’s been using really carefully, and there’s this one line that was used right around that same moment that Shane was talking about in the uncover where they were talking about the difference between seeing whether a student is a can’t or a won’t, and understanding that their behavior is that they are, they are carrying so much on them when they come to school that they can’t do what we’re asking them to do. It’s not that they won’t, and we see it as a won’t. They can’t because of all the other stuff that they have going on, and that’s why sometimes when I put strategies out, and teachers are like, mm, tried it. That won’t work. And it’s like, it’s the, it’s the can’t part that we have to figure out. It would work if we have this other stuff, this other stuff is absolutely necessary and you can’t work around it, and you can’t punish your way around it, and you can’t, you know. So, and, you know, the other thing too that I think it could be an issue for some teachers that was also a struggle for me is the stuff that is the war between the Indigenous ways of thinking and the Western ways of thinking. And I am somebody who has learned how to achieve in Western ways of doing things in the to-do lists, and the grades, and the, like, let’s get it done and the urgency. I’m somebody who sits in a meeting and is like, why are we still socializing? Let’s get to the agenda. And so being in all of these meetings where there’s like the time for the witnessing and the agreements and everything, like that goes so against like who I am as a person, and yet I know that this is my problem. And so sinking into that and seeing the value in it at the end and while listening to the reflections of the witnesses and realizing, like, yeah, Jenn. It’s okay. It’s okay to, like, sink into some of this just human relating. And that’s like the real stuff. Like, none of that other stuff really matters if you don’t have that. So it taught me a lot about just calm down and like be with people. 

DUGAN: Right, one of your reflections. So great. 

GONZALEZ: So if there are Type A teachers that are in this process, that is my message from one Type A to another. Like, it’s okay. Calm down and be with people. It’s going to pay off. You’re still going to have a good product at the end. 

SAFIR: That’s great. 

DUGAN: I love that. 

GONZALEZ: So anything else as we are wrapping this up and getting ready to launch this out into the world? Any sort of final thing that you want to say? 

DUGAN: I think we’ve said this a thousand times. But if you really sit with, kids have so much to say, and they can transform your entire way of being and pedagogy in the classroom. And so even if the process looks different for you, just start to sit with. And if you’re an administrator, start to sit with teachers or start to sit with families, but they have so much to say and can inform us. And I would, I would just love to see this become we change the way we talk about curriculum, and this is the curriculum, right. We have some things we want kids to learn, but now we’re going to sit with them and consistently figure out what it looks like to help them learn those things. So I just, I really encourage everyone, first of all, I hope you go look at it and really, you know, engage with it fully. But also, just if nothing else, start to really sit with our babies and our humans because when we do that with intention, so much can happen. 

GONZALEZ: So, thank you both for writing this book. And Shane, I’ll say again. I still have “The Listening Leader” on my shelf that I’ve had for years, have never even opened it, and I realized so much of that ended up in this book. And so I’m glad I got this one and read it because I just, I think that, I’m just glad that you all took the time and energy that it took to actually put the book together and then agreed to do this, to spend this year. You know, this was not, this was a time-consuming process to do all this. 

SAFIR: It was really worth it. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. I hope so, and I hope we can reach a lot more schools now that they can sort of watch you both in action. 

DUGAN: Well, but thank you too. I mean for the people who go through this, I mean, people love Cult of Pedagogy, and it would be such an honoring of your work as well with what it took to put this together. I mean, your thought was, what can, this is, these ideas are phenomenal, but what can we get to teachers that helps make it a reality? And you really came to us with that idea and have put in a tremendous amount of work to bring this to life. So I just, you know, if you, if you love Jennifer and Cult of Pedagogy, please also honor the, the time and space and the thought that she put into, the thought that you put into bringing things that matter and work for teachers into practice. 

GONZALEZ: Thank you. 

SAFIR: People get very excited when we mention this. 

GONZALEZ: Really? 

SAFIR: They’re like, what? Oh my God. You guys met Cult of Pedagogy? You’re like not even a person. You’re not like, you’re like a character. 

GONZALEZ: I know. I’ve heard people refer to me as Cult of Pedagogy. I’m like, I have an actual name. That would be a very weird name. 

SAFIR: Anyway. Thank you, thank you, thank you, both of you.

Thank you again to Jamila and Shane and to the teachers at Buena Vista Horace Mann and Constable Neil Bruce for the time and energy you put into this work. For links to all the resources mentioned in this episode, visit, click Podcast, and choose episode 203. To go directly to the Street Data video series, go to And to get a bimonthly email from me about my newest blog posts, podcast episodes, courses and products, sign up for my mailing list at Thanks so much for listening, and have a great day.